Leading the Way: Halifax’s Climate Initiatives and Sustainability Efforts
In the spring of 2023, the Reimagined Energy Podcast sat down with Shannon Miedema, the Director of Environment and Climate Change for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
Halifax has gained recognition for its impressive clean initiatives and green projects. During our discussion, Shannon shared insights into her role and the city’s commitment to addressing climate change and fostering sustainability.
Shannon explained her journey into this role, which started over thirteen years ago when she joined the city. She worked in one of the first climate change positions, which she later transitioned into permanently. With the adoption of the new climate plan, the team grew significantly, and Shannon found herself as director.
Halifax has earned its reputation as a leading city in Canada regarding climate initiatives. The city has been involved in greenhouse gas inventories since the 1990s and was an early adopter of the Partners for Climate Protection program. With climate science advancements and the urgency of the climate crisis, Halifax revamped its climate plan to include climate adaptation measures. The city’s climate plan is firmly rooted in cutting-edge climate science, focusing on actions dictated by scientific recommendations, regardless of the challenges and investments required. Halifax’s commitment to its 2030 and 2050 targets has garnered attention and admiration from other cities looking to emulate its success.
Halifax’s climate plan, known as “HalifACT,” short for “Acting on Climate Together,” emphasizes the importance of collaboration. Shannon stressed that the city can only directly control about two percent of its emissions. Therefore, it is crucial to unite all stakeholders, including different levels of government, businesses, utilities, and the public, to work collectively towards climate goals. The plan focuses on reducing barriers, creating new policies, and securing funding to accelerate progress.
Halifax’s approach to developing its climate plan is notable for its inclusivity. To co-create the plan, the city actively engaged with various communities, including African Nova Scotian communities, non-profits, academics, and more. The planning process prioritized vulnerable communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems while aiming for healthy, thriving communities that can effectively respond to climate impacts.
When asked why investing in climate initiatives is crucial now, Shannon emphasized the situation’s urgency. The city is rapidly approaching its carbon budget limit, and delaying action will have long-lasting consequences. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to stop today, the impacts of past emissions would persist for years.
Comprehensive changes are needed to combat climate change, including shifting to clean energy, reducing building energy consumption, and transforming transportation systems.
While individual actions may seem insignificant in the face of such a monumental challenge, Shannon highlighted their importance. Residents can make a difference by voting for environmentally conscious leaders, making sustainable consumer choices, reducing waste, and supporting local products to minimize emissions from transportation. Small changes collectively contribute to a more sustainable future.
The Solar City program has successfully supported homeowners, places of worship, and non-profits installing solar systems. Halifax aims to expand the program to facilitate deep energy retrofits for existing buildings. Retrofitting buildings is a significant opportunity to reduce energy demand and achieve sustainability goals.
Halifax’s electric vehicle (EV) strategy targets converting its corporate fleet to electric vehicles by 2030. The city is also working on expanding the charging infrastructure to support EV adoption. Additionally, the city is collaborating with the private sector to encourage the growth of electric transportation.
In the coming months and years, Halifax has ambitious projects lined up. They are actively working on flood hazard mapping to assess risks and vulnerabilities in the face of climate change. Simultaneously, the city evaluates its critical infrastructure and plans resilient solutions to ensure public safety and continuity in the face of climate impacts.
Halifax’s commitment to addressing climate change and fostering sustainability is evident through its comprehensive climate plan, community engagement, and innovative initiatives. Under Shannon Miedema’s leadership, the city demonstrates that local action can have a global impact. With a strong focus on inclusivity, resilience, and collaboration, Halifax sets an example for cities worldwide to follow on their journey towards a sustainable future.